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La Hire, Gabriel-Philippe de [Philippe II]

1. Dates
Born: Paris, 25 July 1677
Died: Paris, 4 June 1719
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 42
2. Father
Occupation: Scientist, Government Official
He was the son of the astronomer Philippe de La Hire and his first wife Catherine Lesage. His grandfather was Laurent de La Hire, 'peintre ordinaire du roi' and professor of painting and sculpture at the Académie Royale. His half brother studied medicine and became a member of the Académie as a botanist in 1709.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Gabriel-Philippe was educated at the Paris observatory where he lived after 1682. He was initiated from childhood into astronomy and the techniques of meteorological and astronomical observations. At first he was destined to become a doctor and studied medicine under Duverney. His great interest in mathematics took him down the same path as his father.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Engineering
Subordinate: Medicine, Anatomy, Meteorology
He assisted his father in his regular observations at the Paris Observatory. His first solo work was the establishment of the Ephemerides for 1701, 1702, and 1703. This work involved de La Hire in a painful dispute with Jean Le Fevre, 'astronome pensionnaire' and editor of Connaissance des temps. Le Fevre accused both father and son of plagiarism and incompetence. The result of the controversy left Le Fevre with the loss of his editorship, severely censured, and expelled from the Académie.
In 1702 La Hire published a new edition of Mathurin Jousse's Le theatre de l'art de charpentrie.
The following year he presented several short memoires to the Académie on subjects ranging from observational and physical astronomy to applied science and medicine.
After his nomination to the second class of architects of the Académie of Architecture (1706), de La Hire began to consider several technical and architectural problems. In 1707 he wrote a memoire on the organ of sight in which he established that the aqueous humor filled the same function as the vitreous humor.
In 1718 he participated in the geodesic operations carried out under the direction of Jacques Cassini to extend the meridian of Paris from Amiens to Dunkerque.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government
From the year 1694 La Hire was appointed to various positions within the Académie. Note that there were two different Académies involved: the Académie des Sciences, and the Académie of Architecture.
8. Patronage
Type: Unknown
With his father already there, La Hire had an in. Nevertheless someone had to appoint him to the Académie.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Architecture, Cartography, Instruments, Mechanical Devices
He invented a device to detach a carriage from the horses when they got out of hand.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1694-1719
1694, appointed élève astronome.
1699, appointed associé
1706, appointed to second class in the Royal Academy of Architects.
1718, succeeded his father as pensionnaire in the Académie des sciences.
1718, succeeded his father as professor of architecture (Académie of Architecture).
  1. Michaud, Biographie générale, 23.
  2. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, 28.
  3. A. Jal, Dictionnaire critique de biographie et d'histoire, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1872), pp. 730-1.
  4. I am unable to find any éloge in the histories of the Académie. In all there is an extreme lack of information about La Hire.
  5. I can hardly believe that there is so little on the two LaHires.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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